The Senate’s parliamentary minefield

Important and difficult as the House vote was, it was a comparative parliamentary picnic compared to what lies ahead in the Senate.  It is a landscape strewn with mines that can blow up the best-intentioned efforts.  In this particular instance, it could also lead to a situation by which Senate Democrats could force a government shutdown in their attempt to save funding for a law that has the support of just 39 percent of voters, according to a CNN poll earlier this month.

It’s no secret that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wishes nothing more than to strip from the CR the language that saves taxpayers from having to pay for a law that applies to them while exempting Big Business, Big Labor and Congress itself.  Less well known is the parliamentary legerdemain that can be used to defeat the House measure and silence the voice of the people. 

In its current form, the CR funds all government operations through mid-December while including specific language to prevent any further spending on ObamaCare.  Straightforward as this may sound, it is subject to a variety of weird Senate tricks that could derail the bill. 

A key component in this process is cloture, the Senate rule by which debate may continue unless there are 60 votes to end it.  With 41 Senate Republicans, a unified GOP could conceivably filibuster attempts by Senate Democrats to force Americans to pay for this law by scuttling the defunding language in the CR.

It is likely that Reid or a fellow Democrat would propose a motion to strike from the CR any language that defunds ObamaCare. Should such an amendment be filed, the House version of the CR could be brought for a vote with the amendment to strike on the sidelines.  This is the situation Senate Republicans must be prepared to confront.

Unlike the CR itself, an amendment to remove the language that defunds ObamaCare is not subject to cloture and requires only a simple majority to pass.  Should Harry Reid try to orchestrate this sort of “heads I win, tails you lose” proposition in an attempt to blame Republicans for an adverse outcome, he would be engaging in a perverse exercise in legislative malevolence.

The filibuster is a blunt instrument in the legislative process and must be wielded with great caution and forethought.  When used judiciously, it can be used to inform the people of the hazards of ill-conceived legislation and prevent it from taking effect.  Such is the case with the need to defund ObamaCare.  Senate Republicans are going to have to tiptoe through the minefield of parliamentary maneuvering that awaits them.  If necessary, the filibuster must be used to protect the defunding provisions, which the House worked so hard to pass in the current Continuing Resolution.

Martin is co-founder and national coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots; Bozell is chairman of ForAmerica.

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